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A night of Mozart and Tchaikovsky

Bradley Winterton
Wednesday,  Apr 18,2018,20:08 (GMT+7)
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A night of Mozart and Tchaikovsky

Bradley Winterton

Korean pianist Cho Eun Young will perform at a concert featuring Mozart’s piano concertos in HCMC on April 19 - PHOTO: BRADLEY WINTERTON

Mozart’s piano concertos represent a pinnacle. Quite what they are a pinnacle of is another matter, because nothing like them had ever been produced before. But a pinnacle they are nonetheless.

The piano was at the time a relatively new instrument. Its ability to create notes soft or loud was described in its name, the ‘pianoforte’ – soft (‘piano’) or loud (‘forte’). This was an advance on the older harpsichord, where the strings were plucked with a kind of claw rather than hammered with a padded hammer, as in the new piano.

Mozart essentially wrote his piano concertos to play himself, to exhibit his technical virtuosity in a public concert, as well as to express his softer feelings in, for example, the slow movements. The concertos were in three movements, fast, slow, then fast again.

The first movements characteristically displayed several themes which were then either left alone or ‘developed’, in other words played with in a variety of ways. The slow movements were usually relatively straightforward, probably with only two themes (melodies). Then the final movement was a vigorous exercise in virtuosity in either a ‘rondo’ form (A-B-A-C-A etc.) or as a theme-and-variations.

The relationship between the piano and the orchestra was also important. Sometimes they would answer each other, and sometimes they would contrast, engaging in a sort of battle for supremacy.

Mozart’s piano concertos were also characterized by their ‘cadenzas’, passages usually three-quarters of the way through a movement where the orchestra stops playing and the soloist plays variations on one of the themes, either following the written music or improvising. Another characteristic was ‘codas’, passages of music added on at the end of a movement’s normal structure.

Mozart would play this often flirtatious music wearing his beloved red jacket. How far he would add ‘decoration’ to the music we now know in its printed versions is unknown, and the subject of often heated dispute.

His 21st Piano Concerto, in C Major, will be performed by the Ho Chi Minh Ballet and Symphony Orchestra in a concert on April 19, at the Saigon Opera House, beginning at 8 p.m.

This concerto is nowadays often referred to as the ‘Elvira Madigan’ concerto, because the now famous melody from the second movement was used in a popular Swedish film of 1967, subsequently released worldwide, of that name. The soloist in this Saigon performance will be the Korean pianist Cho Eun Young.

The second half of the concert will feature Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony.

This symphony was composed in 1888, 10 years after his Symphony Number 4, and five years before his Symphony Number 6.

It has been seen as a patriotic work, and as such became popular during World War II, when the then USSR, now Russia, was invaded by Germany. Its initial critical reception, however, was more hostile, with critics, especially in the U.S., lambasting what they saw as the uncontrolled frenzy of the fourth (and final) movement.

The concert opens with Mozart’s popular Overture to his opera, Le Nozze di Figaro (‘the marriage of Figaro’). The whole concert will be conducted by the Korean conductor Kim Joon Cha, who is also a celebrated pianist.

Tickets range in price from VND650,000 and VND500,000 to VND200,000 (and VND80,000 for students).

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